March 12, 2017
We carry our cell phones around like they are a life line, frantically checking them numerous times a day to make sure we don’t miss a call, a voicemail, a text, or a post. If we have to mute them or turn them off, like in a movie theatre (or as we should in church), we turn them back on as soon as we are out. And when we try to get a hold of someone and they don’t respond immediately, we often get concerned at first, and then impatient, and sometimes even downright angry. I remember once an old boss of mine at CARBER fired someone because they didn’t get back to him within half an hour of his call.
But what happens when God tries to call? We leave Him messages all the time through prayer… usually wanting Him to do something for us or someone else. But do we have our spiritual cell phones on ‘mute’, or turned off, when He tries to message us? In our first Scripture reading today (Zechariah 7:8-14), God got so tired of the Israelites refusing to listen, that He said, “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen.” Hopefully none of us have ever angered Him to that extreme, but it would do us all well to spend less time talking and more time listening.
A wonderful lady that I work with at Evenglow shared a book with me, titled “Crossing the Threshold of Eternity” by Robert L. Wise. I would like to read you something from that book:
When I was attending seminary, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. E. Stanley Jones. A medical doctor, Dr. Jones had a worldwide impact during the ‘40s and ‘50s when he was a missionary to India. A brilliant man, Dr. Jones’s profound spirituality touched thousands in this country through the weeklong conferences he held, called “ashrams”. I heard him tell this story.
Just as World War II began, Dr. Jones was in China when the Japanese began their invasion. He knew that if he didn’t get out of China quickly, he would be there possibly for the entire war. Dr. Jones caught the last tramp fighter leaving China and piled his many possessions on board, knowing it would take him a long time to get back to India. The old ship wound its way slowly from port to port while Dr. Jones could only impatiently hope for the best. Winding around what is today called Vietnam and Thailand proved arduous. They had to get beyond Burma to finally arrive in India. However, it was Dr. Jones’s practice not only to pray for protection but also to attempt to listen to what the Holy Spirit might say to him in return.
As the boat pulled into one of those out-of-the-way docks that no travel agency even sent its customers to visit, Dr. Jones prayed as usual. In his mind and heart, the voice of God spoke back.
“Get off the boat,” the Holy Spirit said.
Dr. Jones blinked in bewilderment. To end up in this port was nearly as bad as to get stuck in China! He must have heard wrong.
“Get off this boat,” the Holy Spirit repeated.
Because Dr. Jones did what he believed the Spirit of God told him to do, with the greatest reluctance, he had all of his possessions removed from the ship and piled on the dock. Standing in the midst of his goods, Dr. Jones watched the freighter sail out into the Andaman Sea. He felt like a fool and knew that his problem of returning to India had only deepened.
As he watched the boat sail a mile out into the harbor, a terrible roar echoed back to the shore as fire and smoke suddenly filled the air. A Japanese submarine had torpedoed the ship and it sank, killing all passengers.
When Dr. Jones told this story, a hand immediately shot up in the air. “Do you mean that you were the only person God was speaking to?” the man asked.
“No, sir”, Dr. Jones snapped. “I was the only one listening.”
The only one listening was the only one whose life was spared. Are you listening? Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28). Only those who listen to Jesus, and follow Him, will He give eternal life. And like those on the boat that was torpedoed, all those who do not listen will sink into the sea of eternal despair.
So the next time you pray, spend as much, or more, time listening as you do talking. Don’t wait for a windstorm, or an earthquake, or a fire (1 King 19:11-12) – but wait for the gentle whisper of the Lord. You’ll be glad that you did. Amen.
The Bible - God's "text message" to us!